Alderman Rev. Drew King defeated challenger Cordelia Thorpe yesterday in the Democratic primary for Ward 22, a win that — since there are no challengers in the November general election — virtually assures him a second term at City Hall.
King, who had won an endorsement from his ward’s Democratic committee and who had the support of New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, received 172 votes to Thorpe’s 72. Voter turnout was relatively low in the race, with less than a quarter of the ward’s 1,063 registered Democrats casting their ballots, election moderator Patricia Kennedy-Salomon said. And although the ward includes a significant portion of the Yale campus — Morse, Stiles, Silliman and Timothy Dwight colleges and Swing Space — poll workers said few Yale students turned out to vote alongside residents of the Dixwell neighborhood.
Youth issues will remain the most important agenda item in his next term as alderman, King said shortly after the final vote was announced. The Dixwell ward that he represents has experienced a recent spate in youth violence.
“We really want to do more than what we did last time,” King said. “We want to get the Q House at least up and running, and we really want to have a dialogue with the youths so there won’t be more [violence].”
The Q House, officially known as the Dixwell Community House, served as a community center for counseling and tutoring until it closed in 2003 for lack of funds.
The incumbent King was thought by many observers to be the stronger of the candidates. Despite Thorpe’s consistent criticism of King’s unresponsiveness to the ward’s needs, King’s colleagues and constituents praised the work he had done in securing funds for youth initiatives in the neighborhood, in increasing the police presence on the streets of Dixwell and in working to improve the relationship between the police and the ward’s citizens.
“He has done excellent work on the Public Safety Committee bringing up those hard-to-deal-with issues,” said Ward 23 Alderman Yusuf Shah, chairman of the Board of Aldermen’s Public Safety Committee. “He has been very vocal about how the youth are being treated in the community by police officers. He has a great working relationship with the district supervisors over there, and — what is most important — he has a good connection with the people there.”
King also called repeated attention during the campaign to the $250,000 he had received from Yale to fund a park in the area.
Thorpe, by contrast, had difficulty calling attention to her campaign, particularly, she said, among Yale students. Despite attempts to speak with residential college masters, she was unable to make contact with those on-campus, as she said she was under the impression that she would be trespassing on Yale’s campus were she to canvass on it.
“It didn’t go too well with Yale students,” Thorpe said. “Yale students didn’t open their minds to two candidates. I was trying to reach the students, [but] I didn’t know the proper way to communicate with them.”
Many local residents said they had not heard much about her bid for alderwoman. Dorothy Collins, 48, a local resident who supported King’s campaign, said she had not heard much about Thorpe’s campaign, which stood in sharp contrast to the constant presence she said King had been in the neighborhood.
“He was there for me,” Collins said. “When my nephew was shot, he was at the funeral to offer support, to lean on … He got my son a couple of jobs. He comes by to see how it’s going in the neighborhood. [Thorpe] hasn’t knocked on my door one time. Why isn’t she knocking on people’s doors? Way before the election, King was there.”
No candidate will be challenging King in November’s general election, said Alyssa Rosenberg ’06, the co-chair of the Ward 22 Democratic committee, meaning that King is essentially guaranteed the reelection.
“Anything can and has happened in the general election,” Rosenberg said. “But there are a lot of barriers to running as a write-in candidate.”
— Additional reporting by Cullen Macbeth and Jack Mirkinson.